motherhood, family, & building community
My body is starting menopause. Or perimenopause. Or whatever you want to call it. They are clinical words that don’t begin to convey what a human experience it is. What a female experience. My body has ovulated and menstruated on schedule for thirty years. And now it’s decided to stop being reliable and begin the slow but erratic decline into the time in my life when I can no longer produce life.
That first part I just wrote? That was me. But by the end of that short paragraph the audience was talking as loudly in my own head as I was. And now the audience enters. I hear men and younger women reading this thinking, ‘What’s the big deal? Stop your whining before you embarrass yourself any further.’ I hear women who have aged more gracefully than me wondering what I’m complaining about. ‘Just move on’, they say. ‘Count your blessings.’ I hearing women who had it much worse than me wondering ‘Where were you when I needed empathy, a hug, someone to listen?’
My inner judge invited them in. They need to leave now. I’m not writing for them. I’m writing to understand myself. To access my deeper truth. Because writing—as much as I fight it—is something I need to do to move through my grieving, my learning, my healing.
So back to me. You, audience members, are not welcome.
Ayrie died nearly six years ago.
I mothered him and loved him for four and a half years.
I conceived him ten years ago.
He’s been with me for a quarter of my life.
When Ayrie was born I became a mother. I have always wanted to be a mother. Not of one child, not two, but twelve. I wanted to find a husband with a heart as big as mine who would take on a house full of foster kids. We would have four children of our own and adopt eight of the children we fostered. Our home would be crazy, to be sure, but it would be full of love. People watching out for each other. Smiles. Memories. Inside jokes. We would be our own force in the world.
My twenties came and went and that husband never came. I lost hope that it was ever possible for me. I began to believe I wasn’t lovable. I studied and worked hard but I partied hard too. My life at night started to become more real than my life during the day. And one of those nights, at a friend’s party, I met a man who I was instantly attracted to. There was a pull and it carried me to him. I looked into his eyes and the first words that came out of my mouth were, “You’re adorable.”
I fell in love faster than I should have or wanted to and I looked past so many things. I let him lie to me. I lied to myself. I became more and more distant from my true self. And then I became pregnant.
That was ten years ago.
Less than two years later Ayrie’s dad and I had another child. Shiya.
Shiya has been asking me to have another child since he learned how to talk. And my answer was always, “If I can find another dad. Someone to love us.” Look what I did to myself. I wanted another kid. Shiya wanted another kid. And I said, “Yes, but only if another man finds me desirable.” To be fair, I said other things too like he must be dedicated to family, care about the world, love you, makes us feel happy and safe, and so forth. But at the crux of it, I made my lovability the deciding factor.
And now my body is failing. Or changing. I suppose its natural and inevitable but right now it feels like a failing. And I can’t help but think that I wasn’t loveable enough for someone to want to create a family.
I cried myself to sleep. I woke up crying. I am supposed to be at a coffee shop working on a report for a client but I just couldn’t. I drove to a park instead. Why a park? Why this park? I don’t know. I felt as though Ayrie was leading me.
So I’m sitting in a park writing this, and I feel very alone. Not quite lonely, but alone. That’s different. Lonely but not alone. It used to always be that I often felt completely along in this world.
So if I’m not alone, maybe Ayrie’s here? I close my eyes and shake my heard to clear the fogginess that tears bring. I place my hands back on the keyboard and say, “So what do you want me to know Ayrie? Tell me and I’ll type.”
Immediately I heard:
It’s time to engage and connect.
You will build a family, but it will be a different kind of family. One that you can’t quite see or imagine yet. But it will be beautiful and you will be proud.
Follow through with your urge to connect. Listen to the messages about community. You are ready. This is the next phase in your life. It’s not one of sadness and lack. It’s one of strength and so much joy.
Build new roots. Strengthen existing ones.
Make a list of the places that makes you feel good, strong and supported.
Notice what it is that makes you feel this way (ie: your feeling on the drive to the park via the sunny hollow route this morning).
Notice where you want your community to grow (think of your conversations with Gift and Andy about diversity and faith).
Follow your intuition.
Feed your joy.
Trust that the magnetism of your orbit will attract the right people.
Make the list of people you want to bring back into our orbit. Start setting up lunches and dinners.
Ask five people for help.
Offer five people help.
Write six people a letter.
Make small investments in your orbit—your expanding family—your community—and it will yield larger and more powerful gains than you can even imagine.
This next phase of your life will blow your mind. I am with you. I love you. I am proud of you.
I’m in awe. This is what happens when I stop and listen. This is the magic available to me always. Now let’s see how well I can live these instructions.